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AN EXPERT'S VIEW // NICOLE HAISLETT

St. Petersburg's Nicole Haislett, who won three gold medals at the '92 Olympics, shares her thoughts with staff writer Bruce Lowitt on the prospects of the '96 U. S. women's team against the rest of the world.

Coming out of the swim trials in Indianapolis, the question seemed to be not how many gold medals the American women might win but whether they'd win any. I don't think that has changed. I certainly hope we won't be shut out and I don't want to say yes; that's too pessimistic. But I don't think we're strong enough to say for sure that we'll win any.

In the 50 and 100 free, the Chinese look unbeatable if their times are legitimate _ the questions about drug use still haven't been answered _ and they can do it again. But Amy Van Dyken is just about the fastest in the world and she's capable of doing a lot better if she can improve her reaction time. Her starts are slow.

I don't think we have much of a chance in the other freestyles. Franziska van Almsick and Hayley Lewis _ although she didn't do well at the Australian trials _ and a lot of other girls are out there. Janet Evans and Cristina Teuscher can do better than they did at the trials and Janet would love to medal at three Olympics. As long as she and Brooke Bennett are swimming they'll be called rivals.

All of a sudden, everyone's going faster in the backstroke. I don't think we have much of a chance there. Same in the breaststroke. Amanda Beard might do something, but she's so young, with no serious experience. The Olympics will be a real eye-opener. Then again, maybe she'll do well because she doesn't know any better. If Allison Wagner is okay, she might do well in the medleys.

The relays are going to be tough for us. We don't have much depth there after Amy and Janet and Angel Martino. And as far as the individual events go, we're going to be really challenged. If we win anything at all, it won't be easy.

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